Phage Infection of the Obligate Intracellular Bacterium, Chlamydia Psittaci Strain Guinea Pig Inclusion Conjunctivitis

Microbes Infect. 2000 Jun;2(7):761-72. doi: 10.1016/s1286-4579(00)90356-3.


The infectious cycle of phiCPG1, a bacteriophage that infects the obligate intracellular pathogen, Chlamydia psittaci strain Guinea Pig Inclusion Conjunctivitis, was observed using transmission electron microscopy of phage-hyperinfected, Chlamydia-infected HeLa cells. Phage attachment to extracellular, metabolically dormant, infectious elementary bodies and cointernalisation are demonstrated. Following entry, phage infection takes place as soon as elementary bodies differentiate into metabolically active reticulate bodies. Phage-infected bacteria follow an altered developmental path whereby cell division is inhibited, producing abnormally large reticulate bodies, termed maxi-reticulate bodies, which do not mature to elementary bodies. These forms eventually lyse late in the chlamydial developmental cycle, releasing abundant phage progeny in the inclusion and, upon lysis of the inclusion membrane, into the cytosol of the host cell. Structural integrity of the hyperinfected HeLa cell is markedly compromised at late stages. Released phage particles attach avidly to the outer leaflet of the outer membranes of lysed and unlysed Chlamydiae at different stages of development, suggesting the presence of specific phage receptors in the outer membrane uniformly during the chlamydial developmental cycle. A mechanism for phage infection is proposed, whereby phage gains access to replicating chlamydiae by attaching to the infectious elementary body, subsequently subverting the chlamydial developmental cycle to its own replicative needs. The implications of phage infection in the context of chlamydial infection and disease are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriophages / physiology*
  • Chlamydophila psittaci / growth & development
  • Chlamydophila psittaci / virology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Inclusion / microbiology*
  • Cytopathogenic Effect, Viral
  • Guinea Pigs
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron